Sweet Sleep

man sleeping“What hath night to do with sleep?”  John Milton Paradise Lost

Ever felt this way?  You lay in bed waiting for sleep to come, but the hours tick by.  This was my life for years and years.  Literally from the time I was a teenager. It was so hard to “go” to sleep.  Hubby lays his head on his pillow and poof! he’s out.  I’ve seen him fall asleep in the middle of a sentence that he was speaking.  Oh how I have envied that skill! Six years of chronic pain has changed the landscape of my sleep.  I now am exhausted and most nights have zero trouble falling asleep.

Or maybe you fall asleep easily only to wake several hours later unable to go back to sleep.  That is my life now.  No matter how hard you try or how many sleep tricks you employ, sleep will not happen.  Obviously if frustration sets in sleep will not follow.  You try counting, progressive relaxation, praying, clearing your mind, counting your blessings, and nothing helps you nod off.  Normally after an hour or so of trying I give up and get out of bed.

Why do we need sleep?

Have you ever heard someone say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”.  I’ve said it myself, usually because of a bad nights sleep.  However our bodies really do need to sleep.  Here are a few of the things that happen behind the scenes when we sleep.

  • muscles relaxbaby sleeping
  • hormones are released
  • energy is replenished
  • blood pressure and body temp drop
  • tissue is repaired
  • stomach acid decreases
  • immune system continue to fight
  • NF, a cancer killer, is released into the bloodstream

Here’s a link with some random, interesting facts about sleep.  Research shows that our ability to think quickly and clearly, solve math problems, remember details, and perform some physical tasks are lessened when we don’t get enough sleep. People who go a very long time without sleeping can even develop paranoia  and experience hallucinations. Animals that go without sleep for long periods of time die.  Chronic health conditions can play havoc with our sleep.  You know it’s important, so how do you help your sleep issues?

How to Entice Sleep

I’m always frustrated with articles that promise a good night’s sleep if you only do XYZ.  Every single person is unique and one size does not fit all where our health is concerned.  Here are a list of suggestions to help change your sleep habits.  I’ve tried most of these and stuck with the ones that seem to help me. Your mileage may vary. 😉 older woman sleeping

  • No electronic screens after a certain time of night.  I’m not going to tell you when that time is.  For me it’s somewhere between 8 and 9 p.m..  Give your brain time to rest from the stimulation before trying to sleep.
  • Develop a calming routine.  Doing the same thing every night sets a rhythm so your brain begins to anticipate sleep.
  • Have a regular bedtime.  This is critical for me.  If I’m not in bed before 10 p.m. it is much much harder to go to sleep.
  •  Melatonin.  Find the smallest dose that helps your sleep. Right now i’m taking 2 mg a night.  I could tell the difference after 2 nights of starting melatonin. This is the brand I take.Source Naturals Melatonin 1mg, Orange, 300 Tablets
  • Epsom salt or lavender bath.  I love this one, and only use a foot bath with the epsom salt but it is very relaxing.  Or try both epsom salt and lavendar oil.  Lavendar is very calming.  Be warned, some people experience the opposite effect when using lavender oils.
  • Dry brush and take a warm shower.  I usually dry brush in the morning, but following up with a shower is very calming.
  • Hops, chamomile, valerian.  Try these separate in a tea or combined in a tincture.  Here’s the tincture I tried. Alcohol Free Deep Sleep Herbs Etc 1 oz Liquid
     It’s suggested to give it several nights.  I honestly didn’t notice any benefit, but maybe that’s because my biggest problem is not going to sleep.
  • Read.  I’ve heard it said to read a boring book, but any kind works for me.  Once again, I’ve talked to people who cannot fall asleep reading, so find what works for you.

The point is to try several new routines and find what works for your schedule and your body.  But, please, don’t try them just one night. 😉  Anyone living with a chronic condition needs to make sleep a priority.  This and the way we eat, and stress management  are several things we do have some control over.  Work at it without working at it. 🙂  In other words, implement new strategies, but don’t stress over them, especially if they are not working for you.  Keep trying till you find what does work.  That may even be temporary help from a sleep med.

What about naps?

man sleeping on park bench

Advice is strong on both sides of the nap question. Some say not to nap at all during the daytime, while others say it doesn’t hurt. Here is an article from the Mayo clinic about napping and healthy adults.  Obviously people dealing with chronic conditions are not overly healthy, so it might be best to keep a sleep journal for a while and see whether naps negatively affect your nights sleep or not.  Honestly sometimes, I absolutely have to sleep during the day, even though I am not a napper.  Your body must rest whenever that happens.  Dealing with chronic health issues that affect sleep is a balancing act.  Don’t get discouraged with what doesn’t work, just keep looking for what does!

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